Busiek said the marriage also makes dramatic stories a little harder to accomplish when writing Superman. “It’s harder for Clark to be in a bind at work if he’s got someone there covering for him. And of course, it’s harder to do stories where he explores the idea of romance, or of finding a place to belong that isn’t necessarily with Lois. It makes him feel less like an outsider, more like a homebody,” he said. “Which is nice for those of us who like those things in our own lives, but it’s not as dramatic. And while there’s drama in marriage, it’s not always easy to bring that kind of drama to the kind of sweeping action-adventure story that’s usually Superman’s wheelhouse.
“None of this is to say those challenges are insurmountable,” Busiek added. “I wrote a married Superman and had very little difficulty with it. But the one pre-marriage story I wrote felt even sharper, livelier in the Clark/Lois relationship. It can definitely work either way, but I think there’s more immediate juice in having their relationship unresolved, more competitive and subject to change.”
But Beatty wonders if the marriage isn’t actually a chance to explore something new, instead of simply exploring the old “love triangle” created by clueless Lois Lane, Superman, and bumbling Clark Kent.
“I think the main benefit of having Clark and Lois married is that it grounds Superman in a very human and adult experience,” he said. “We’ve seen the Man of Steel struggle to balance the life of Clark Kent. … with the role of superhero. And the romantic triangle has been played out for nearly three-quarters of a century.”
Marvel did it
In 2008, Marvel rocked the comic book-reading audience by magically eliminating the marriage between Peter Parker and his wife, Mary Jane. Through a story originally written by Straczynski in “Amazing Spider-Man” — then famously rewritten by Marvel executives — a magic character made it so that Spidey’s marriage never existed.
Yet Straczynski isn’t a big fan of eliminating a character’s marriage, despite being involved in the Spider-Man revamp. “This is an argument we had over and over at Marvel about Spider-Man, and there really isn’t a good answer to it,” he said. “You can tell good stories with them married, and good stories with them single. It’s really a function of what the company wants to do with them, and the image they want to present.
“I enjoy writing strong relationships, and I liked writing both of those relationships [with Spider-Man and Superman] as marriages,” he said. “I was happy leaving the Parkers married, and in terms of Clark and Lois, again it can play fine either way.
“Really, the only difference between the two is that if they’re single, they can fool around with other folks,” he said. “But if it’s a monogamous relationship, and they’re never going to date others, then there’s really not a compelling argument not to have them married.”
Yet the fact that Marvel did put an end to Peter Parker’s marriage, and has maintained the character’s single status since, points to a precedent that may interest DC.
DC has come in second to Marvel every year since 2002 in market share, according to Diamond Comics Distributors, which maintains sales numbers for the comic book industry. With its September revamp, DC is hoping to close that gap.
Flashpoint Lois Lane
Lois Lane has gotten new attention in “Flashpoint,” being given her own series, “Lois Lane and the Resistance.”
In the three-issue story, Lois Lane is single. She’s never met Superman, and she never reported about his existence.
“Lois is exactly the character we know and love, except just remove from her equation the fact that she’s ever met Superman,” said Dan Abnett, co-writer of the “Flashpoint” tie-in series with his collaborator, Andy Lanning. “She’s the spunky, snarky reporter she always was, who hasn’t necessarily had the breaks she’s had in the DC [Universe], because she never got that star scoop story of Superman.”
The story centers on Lois as a reporter who becomes stuck in the middle of a war zone, and she eventually gets caught up in the local resistance movement.
The end of the main “Flashpoint” series, which will be released on Aug. 31, is supposed to be the precursor for the big changes DC is making in September. But it’s the tie-in story of single reporter Lois Lane that opens the door for the character to be single even longer.
Superman in other media
The marriage of Lois Lane and Clark Kent originally occurred in comics to coincide with the characters’ marriage on television. At the time, Warner Bros. was supporting the hit TV show “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” starring Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain.
In 1996, the two television characters got married. So DC Comics timed the comic book wedding to happen at the same time.
But now, Warner is concentrating on its movie universe, with the release of “Green Lantern” this year and the “Man of Steel” film next year.
Starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, the movie will tell the origin story of Clark Kent, leading up to the early days of his life as Superman.
In other words, his unmarried life.
Despite the success of former “Superman” movies, this film will reboot the story, relaunching the franchise for what is expected to be more than one movie. Along with other characters, Superman will also be part of DC’s current plans for a “Justice League” film.
And if the marriage was used to align the comics with other media, it would stand to reason that the marriage might be ended to align the comics with the new Man of Steel.
Publishing is a business, and this fact is behind everything DC does. And it’s all about selling comics. So one of the most obvious reasons to make a big change to Superman’s marital status is to not only give the character a clean slate for new readers “outside” the normal comic reading audience, but also attract the attention of the “mainstream” media, to help reach those potential readers.
Giving Superman an effective “divorce” accomplishes both with one stone.
“If we can convince the people here we’re doing something brand-new and fresh, we have a good chance to really get the people outside on board,” DC co-publisher DiDio said.
Comic books, which are primarily sold through small, local comic shops, have experienced a drop in sales over the past two years. DC’s revamp announcement included efforts to add digital customers to its distribution, but the real issue for DC’s characters is the fact they have 76 years of history behind them.
“We’re allowing people who have never bought a comic book in their lives to download them on portable media devices and take a look,” co-publisher Jim Lee said.
The attention the end of the marriage would likely receive new, curious readers learning about it on the same device they can download the story — a combination DC might not be able to resist.
More from Newsarama:
- Infographic: Superman History — 1938 to 2010
- ‘Justice League’ Heroes Find Big Changes in Revamped Universe
- Top 10 Comic Book Movies Ever
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